31 December 2018

2018 in Review

2018 Memories

New places visited: Christ Church in Old City, Philadelphia (September), Batsto Village in New Jersey (October), and Bear Mountain in New York (November/December)

A memorable event: Seeing Dan and Phil's Interactive Introverts in Upper Darby, PA (June)

For my 28th birthday: I had an indoor garden party

2018 Favorites

Favorite new recipe: Low-Fat Egg-Free Banana Muffins

Top three books read: Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (children's),  
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery (young adult), and Summer Half by Angela Thirkell (adult) 

Favorite TV program watched: The Darling Buds of May (ITV)

Guilty pleasure watch of the year: A Christmas Prince (Netflix)

Song of 2018: "Anything Is Possible" by Mozella

24 December 2018

Christmas Wishes for 2018 with the Muppets

"True Blue Miracle" from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

I believe in miracles, and I can tell you why:
Once a year the street I live on sparkles like the sky,
All hung with lights for Christmas
Twinkling everywhere.
The world turns bright for Christmas,
And if that isn't a true blue miracle
I don't know what one is.

"The Peace Carol" from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

Add all the grief that people may bear,
Total the strife, and the trouble and care,
Put them in columns and leave them right there--
The peace of Christmas Day.

The branch that bears the bright holly,
The dove that rests in yonder tree,
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day.

"It Feels Like Christmas" from The Muppet Christmas Carol

A part of childhood we'll always remember,
It is the summer of the soul in December.
Yes, when you do your best for love,
It feels like Christmas.

It is the season of the heart,
A special time of caring,
The ways of love made clear.
It is the season of the spirit,
The message, if we hear it,
Is make it last all year.

It's in the singing of a street corner choir,
It's going home and getting warm by the fire,
It's true, wherever you find love,
It feels like Christmas.

13 December 2018

A Day at the Bear Mountain Inn at Christmastime

A few months ago, I made some plans that necessitated a long weekend trip up north in late November into early December. I don't travel often and prefer to take things slow, so I scheduled a stop at the Bear Mountain Inn in upstate New York along the way to my final destination. While the rest of my plans ultimately fell through, I did end up keeping my reservation at the Bear Mountain Inn for a little break in the mountains before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season really got underway.

The Bear Mountain Inn is a historic hotel located in Bear Mountain State Park near Stony Point, New York. It's been open almost continuously since 1915, though it was closed for major renovations between 2005 and 2011 to revive the building's original rustic atmosphere. That aesthetic certainly comes through today, with lots of stone and wood finishes, warm earth tones, and bear motifs tucked in almost every corner. Two little twin bear cub statues even greet you as you come in the front door:

Over the couple of days that my dad and I stayed at the inn the staff was working to put up Christmas decorations. There were even more up by the time we checked out, so I didn't manage to photograph the finished result in some cases! But I especially loved the colorful wooden cutout toy soldiers guarding the staircases in the lobby and the Santa scene peeking through one of the windows, since they had a retro flair that suited the history of the hotel:

Since the inn is located in a state park, there are lots of outdoor activities right outside the hotel. My city-slicker dad and I, a small town girl, stuck with walking the paved paths around the inn, but we checked out the ice rink and the merry-go-round buildings--complete with bear-adorned signs, of course--from the outside, as well as the signs for the Appalachian Trail, which crosses through the park:


Of course the main attraction of Bear Mountain State Park is its scenic natural beauty. The inn is located right next to Hessian Lake, and the mountains are visible from all around. It must be a lovely place to spend a warm and sunny day, with boating and fishing on the lake and picnic tables with wonderful views, but there was a kind of peaceful beauty about the landscape on the cold, quiet mornings when we took our walks:

I would definitely like to return to the Bear Mountain Inn someday, perhaps in the spring, summer, or autumn when I could enjoy some of the warmer weather activities the park has to offer. There are many nearby historical sites related to the American Revolution that I'd like to visit as well, and I'd love to spend some more time exploring the nearby towns of Garrison and Cold Spring, which we saw glimpses of after driving over the Bear Mountain Bridge. All in all, I highly recommend Bear Mountain as a weekend getaway for nature lovers and history buffs from the greater New York and Philadelphia regions.

27 October 2018

An Autumn Day at Batsto Village in Wharton State Forest

Last Sunday, I went to see historic Batsto Village in Wharton State Forest. From the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth century, Batsto was the site of a succession of industries, including an iron works, a glass works, and a sawmill. The village once housed those who worked at these industries and their families, but by the first half of the twentieth century Batsto had ceased all industrial operations and the village was mostly abandoned. So in the late 1950s the state of New Jersey purchased the property, renovated the buildings, and opened Batsto Village to the public as a historic site.

My dad and I visited Batsto during their annual Country Living Fair, and despite the fact that it was a chilly, windy day (and there was a football game on at the time), the village was packed with people. There were booths with food and crafts for sale, but I was mostly interested in exploring the village buildings. Our first stop was the village store, where old bottles, tins, and boxes had been arranged behind a wire barrier to replicate the shop's nineteenth-century wares.

Next we came to the old sawmill, which was open but only barely renovated: sand and dirt covered the floors, and though stairs that led to a basement level had a sturdy handrail, their steepness and the sand made them alarmingly slippery. I don't think I would have liked to go down there on a day when the village was empty, for fear of an accident!

We then headed over to the mansion, which was once inhabited by Batsto's wealthy owners. The interior was open to the public via guided tours, but our visit fell between time slots, so I only saw the exterior. I'd like to go back another time to see inside, and to get some more pictures when it's less crowded--the mansion's porch was a popular rest spot for the fairgoers, and it was difficult to get a shot without any people in it!

After seeing the mansion we headed over to the workers' cottages. These were set a bit further away from the main village buildings, and we had to cross a small bridge over the Mullica River and Batsto Lake to get to them. Batsto is part of Wharton State Forest, which in turn is part of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, so the village is surrounded by areas of natural beauty. Of course many of the trees were evergreen pines, but a few deciduous trees were starting to change color for the autumn.

The workers' cottages were lined up in two rows opposite each other, with a dirt path in between. They were nearly all identical, with their symmetrical facades and weathered wooden siding, and several were open to peek inside. I found this part of the village the most haunting, perhaps because these buildings were once homes, or perhaps because they were further away from the hustle and bustle of the fair. Even with a few groups of people about and the sounds of the fair not far off, it felt a little eerie here.

There was more to see in the village that I didn't capture, and more still that I didn't get a chance to see myself. I'm curious to see how the atmosphere of the village changes when it's more empty, so I'll plan a return visit for a quieter day to give myself a chance to really take everything in.

13 October 2018

Recipe: Low-Fat Egg-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Note: Please keep in mind that my recipes reflect only my own experience, and if you choose to follow them you do so at your own risk!

Pumpkin doesn't just give an autumnal flavor to these muffins--it also makes them super moist without having to add a lot of fat to the recipe and provides a healthy dose of Vitamin A! If you would prefer to make them vegan, simply swap the melted butter and dairy milk for your cooking oil and plant milk of choice.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark amber maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with 12 muffin wrappers and set aside. 
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, maple syrup, melted butter, and pumpkin puree. 
3. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the spices, and the salt to the wet mixture and combine. Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of the milk and combine again. Keep alternating 1/2 cup flour and 2 tablespoons of milk, blending well after each addition. 
4. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin pan, dividing evenly among 12 muffins.  
5. Bake the muffins until they've puffed at the top and are golden brown, around 20 minutes.  
6. Carefully pop the muffins out of the pan and let cool on wire racks to prevent sogginess. 
Makes 12 muffins